Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro have joined in criticizing the United States for its efforts to find alternative fuel sources. They claim that ethanol and other biofuel technologies take food out of the mouths of the poor:
Cuba and Venezuela have launched an offensive against biofuels, warning that the US-backed rush towards ethanol will worsen global hunger and poverty.
Fidel Castro has written two newspaper articles in a week voicing alarm at the prospect of countries boosting sugar and corn crops to make ethanol, a fuel that can be used an additive or a substitute for petrol.
By diverting crops to feed cars rather than people, the price of food would rise and the world’s poor would go hungry, Mr Castro wrote in the Communist party’s official newspaper, Granma. …
Mr Castro’s ally, the Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, also attacked biofuels in a sharp U-turn that put the two leaders shoulder to shoulder against Brazil and the US, the two big ethanol champions.
The two socialists had at one time favored ethanol and biofuels. They had even planned joint production plants with Brazil, whom they condemn in their latest statement. That changed when Bush started endorsing biofuels last month, especially as a method of reducing American dependency on foreign energy sources. That apparently changed the mind of Chavez, who sells the US a large chunk of its oil production each year.
The two aren’t alone in their criticism, however. Many environmentalists fear the impact of biofuels on agrarian landscapes as more land gets devoted to a narrower number of crops. Since the same crops feed livestock and create ethanol, the increased demand for the produce will probably raise the price of meat. Increaded need for irrigation could also stress clean-water supplies. However, when The Economist partially endorsed Catro’s criticism, they bought into his scare tactics as well — like claiming that 3 billion people would die of thirst from ethanol production.
It’s odd how their enthusiasm for making money off of biofuels never considered its effect on the poor until George Bush found the potential as lucrative as Venezuela and Cuba. Three billion dead people never entered into their calculations then. The reversal demonstrates the depthless, knee-jerk anti-Americanism of Latin America’s two old-school socialists.
UPDATE: Maybe Castro and Chavez should focus more on khat production as a threat to drinking water supplies:
Sitting high up in the rocky mountains of northern Yemen, the country’s capital Sanaa is finding that its dwindling water supply may not be able to sustain the ancient settlement. …
The country imports most of its food, largely because it has too little water to feed itself. Yemenis have about one-fiftieth as much water per head as the world average.
And, to confound confusion, insupportably large amounts of water go on a non-essential crop – khat. …
Moralising apart, khat is having a baleful effect on Yemen. Of the country’s scarce water, 40% goes on irrigating khat – and khat cultivation is increasing by 10% to 15% a year.
I can hardly contain my anticipation while waiting for the socialists of Latin America to scold Yemen for its khat production.